By Ephron, Dan; Chen, Joanna
Newsweek , Vol. 155, No. 13
Byline: Dan Ephron and Joanna Chen
The latest feud between the U.S. and Israel, over the latter's plans (announced during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden) to build 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem, makes one thing clear: Washington has a hard time controlling its headstrong ally. Successive U.S. administrations have pressed Israel to halt settlement construction in the West Bank but looked the other way when it went on building. As a result, Israel simply doesn't take American demands seriously. At U.S. urging, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a temporary settlement freeze in November. But he also authorized hundreds of new homes just before the measure went into effect. The result: housing starts in the settlements during the fourth quarter of 2009 were up 31 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. When this kind of maneuvering is overlooked by Washington, says Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to the country from 2001 to 2005, Israel learns it can safely ignore its big friend.
Yet the United States has a number of potent tools it could use to pressure Israel if it chose to--without resorting to cutting military aid or security cooperation, both of which are sacrosanct in Washington (and Jerusalem). Diplomacy is a subtle art. It might be enough to just signal to Israel, which enjoys almost unparalleled access to officials in Washington, that the government's doors will no longer fly open every time an Israeli cabinet minister comes to town. …